A team of five Chinese experts reached Tokyo Sunday to probe with their Japanese counterparts the alleged contamination of exported dumplings as a Tokyo company official said the source firm in Hebei province had not used any pesticide in its products.
The dumplings were exported by Tianyang Food of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, which Tokyo-based Sojitz Foods Corp quality control chief Hisao Kobayashi visited Sunday. He gleaned information at the Shijiazhuang factory before making it clear that it had never used the pesticide called methamidophos.
Kobayashi said he and another Sojitz Foods official checked chemical storage records from December 2006 but found no evidence of any pesticide being used in the factory.
The two countries, though, have agreed to refrain from making any subjective conclusion before a thorough investigation is over and views are exchanged in full, Chinese embassy officials in Tokyo said.
About 300 people in Japan have sought medical treatment, complaining of vomiting and diarrhea after eating the dumplings. And one girl is reported to be in a serious condition.
Last week, the Japanese media quoted a company as having said that frozen meat dumplings exported by Tianyang Food contained pesticide.
But tests showed the rest of the dumplings from the same batch of more than 2,000 packages, were safe. All the other products made by the Hebei company were safe too, said Wang Daning, an official with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
Hebei Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau director Cheng Fang said China banned use of methamidophos in 2004.
"We investigated samples of dumplings that caused medical problems among some Japanese, as well as the dumplings made around 11 days of that date, that is, from Oct 1 to 20. And no traces of the pesticide were found," he told a press conference in Shijiazhuang, on Saturday.
Sojitz Foods, a wholly owned subsidiary of trading house Sojitz Corp, acts as an intermediary between Tianyang Food and JT Foods Co, a subsidiary of Japan Tobacco Inc.
Investigators have questioned 30 Tianyang Food workers and probed the purchasing, manufacturing, storing and transporting processes of the factory without finding any problem with the quality of food products made there, he said.
Also yesterday, Japanese police said insecticide had been found on the surface of six packages of Tianyang dumplings that were made on the same day as the ones that a family in Takasago, Hyogo Prefecture, ate and fell sick.
A hole had reportedly been found in one of the six packages. But the Japanese police refused to speculate on what caused the holes or how the food had been contaminated.
Tianyang Food manager Di Menglu said at a press conference on Saturday that the dumplings could not have been contaminated in his factory because they are packed in sealed containers as soon as they come off the production lines.
He said that the factory is "shocked" at the incident and suspended production on Wednesday afternoon. It has recalled all its products from the market, too.
Ding said he felt sad at the news of Japanese people falling ill after eating the dumplings, and hoped they recovered early.